From exile to a global music star

Perhaps, the autocratic leadership of Hastings Kamuzu Banda, that pushed many into exile, was an opportunity for Malawi if read from contributions some of the people that spent years in exile are making to the country. Music is one industry that seems to be enjoying more.

The likes of Henry Masauko Chipembere walked into exile feeling neglected and aggravated, but years in the green cities of the United States of America were not an entire loss for Malawi. The family decorates Malawi’s music reputation with a contribution from their son Masauko Chipembere Jr, who is a celebrated international jazz artist. The list is long.

David comes from Likoma

Another musician, David Marama, walks tall in the corridors of international jazz music. His father, Malawi’s first national registrar of cooperatives and family, fled to neighbouring Tanzania in 1965, and hardly did they know, the predicament would create a global music star. Banda regime gave the family 24 hours to leave Malawi for political reasons. The artist was only 11 then.

David wears different faces when on stage. He plays well the guitar and astonishing are his compositions. Now based in Melbourne in Australia, he continues to make headlines abroad, according to an online news outlet www.theaustralian.com,which reviewed his latest album Another Day.

Another Day is a new release arranged and composed by the guitarist. He is a great African musician. His distinctive and ubiquitous guitar playing style can be heard on many African recordings here in Australia,” reads the article titled Mark of the man.

David (R) and Congolese drummer Diouf Nyusu

David was born in Malawi to a family of two sisters and three brothers.  They migrated to Tanzania through Zambia. He is a lawyer by profession and comes from Likoma. He did most of his primary school there and now holds a master’s degree in international law from Patrice Lumumba University in Russia.

While in Tanzania, he was instrumental in founding Watafiti Band in 1985 which played indigenous Tanzanian music in contemporary form. He was part of the group when it toured Zimbabwe and recorded an album called Umoja in Harare.

“Watafiti changed to Tatunane Band which won the prestigious Radio France Award out of 500 music bands. This was the first time a band from non-French speaking countries won the award,” he recalls.

Between 1970 and 1980s, David worked with a number of music groups in Arusha and Dar-es-Salaam cities. He was among the pioneers of the Tanzania’s first music band Sound of Hope which played the prestigious Simba grill at Kilimanjaro Hotel.

Despite his international music exploits, the artist is passionate about Malawi music industry. He follows Malawi’s top artists such as Wambali Mkandawire, Masauko Chipembere Jr, Eric Paliani and the late Che Ndiche and Dazika Michongwe.

Last year, David’s trip to Malawi was frustrated by a road accident he was involved in.

“My journey started on Likoma Island, developed in Tanzania then Russia and now Australia. I will be in Malawi soon. I tell people here about my home country and chambo,” says the guitarists, who rubbed shoulders with South Africa’s fallen jazz kingpin, Hugh Masekela, when he toured Melbourne in 2009.

Paliani said Malawian artists can learn more from David and described him as the country’s major contribution to international music.

“He is a true African ambassador, an intellectual, a teacher, but also humble. I met him during my Australia trip with Bra Hugh,” he said.

David’s brother, Peter, who is also a musician and based in Malawi, described his brother as Malawi’s pride.

“He is a genius. His love for music dates back to his primary school days and I am happy that he took music seriously while in Tanzania,” he said.

David’s love for Malawi is pitched in the latest album Another Day, which has hits such as Likoma Jive. In the song, he treasures Likoma Island and its cultural miscellany. Other songs in the album include How Sweet, Good Times, How Would You Feel, Leo and Party Time.

“It’s about celebrating cultural diversity. The album transcends continents, cultures and languages,” says David, who is married with two children.

David plays among others jazz, pop, reggae and soukous genres. He has five albums to his name and has performed at major festivals in Australia, including Blues Festival, Falls, Moomba, Bellingen, Meredith and Beckett.

In 2014, he was among nominees of the Australian Music Awards called Aria.

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